The Hindi film industry is thrilled that actor and producer Aamir Khan's blockbuster film Lagaan has been nominated among the first five films in the Best Foreign Film category for the Academy Awards.

Talking to a cross-section of the industry's prominent personalities, the reaction was one of happiness not just for Aamir and his unit but for the entire film sector which will see new challenges and opportunities in the international market.

The film's main lead, Aamir Khan, whose role of Bhuvan challenging the British colonial masters has moved film-goers here and abroad, told this paper, "I am happy and excited and would like to thank everyone for their good wishes and prayers.

"The last time we went to Los Angeles, the film was shown to as many as we could. Several members of the Academy who saw it told us they loved the film but we don't know how much they loved it though the response has been very good and we received a standing ovation."

Ashutosh Gowarikar, director of Lagaan, says he is as overwhelmed as Aamir when they heard that their film was nominated. "Though I always felt that the film would be nominated, it was unbelievable when the news came through and we saw it live on Star Movies. It feels good and I think we have one more opportunity to win it."

But more than marketing and promotion, Lady Luck also plays an important part, he says a little nervously. He and Aamir will set off for the U.S. in a week's time where promotions, screenings of Lagaan, will continue in the same way as was done prior to the nomination in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"The idea is to create a buzz and ensure that the jury sees the film and forms an opinion," he says.

What has appealed to Ame-ricans is that Lagaan is a feel-good film and is a mixed bag of humour, romance, sport and connects on several emotional levels.

"We may just win," he says.

Well-known director Roland Jaffe of The Killing Fields saw the film in Mumbai and in the U.S. and says he loved it and so has actress Goldie Hawn.

According to well-known film producer Subhash Ghai, "this is the first triumph for India and Indian cinema which promises a great future in competing with world cinema hereafter.

"The day I saw the trial of Lagaan, I sent a congratulatory message to Aamir Khan for making a perfect and complete film. It's a film that undoubtedly deserves victory on the Oscar stage. We are proud of this triumph. Now there is no looking back. I am happy for Aamir and his unit."

For Javed Akhtar who wrote the lyrics for Lagaan's songs that were composed by the young maestro A.R. Rahman, the Oscar nomination has not come as a surprise though he says, "I was extremely happy.

"After seeing the film, I came out and told Aamir and the director (Gowarikar) to ensure that the film should be made the official entry to the Oscars. If any Hindi movie stood a chance, it was Lagaan. I told them that I was convinced that if they pursued, their efforts would bear fruit."

To him, even if the film does not win the award, it is still a great achievement to be shortlisted among the five nominated films. He also thinks that that Lagaan's nomination will open many a door to Indian films being marketed abroad.

The message for Indian film-makers is that if they want to capture the international market, they would have to make indigenous, original films with an Indian ethos rather than the usual churning of bad copies.

Shakti Samanta, former producer of some blockbusters, believes that Lagaan deserves not just a nomination but an Oscar Award, too. Moreover, the prospects for Hindi films to be marketed will improve provided the idea is original and entertaining, he thinks.

The film's lead actress Gracy Singh says, "I was absolutely excited when a media informed me and couldn't believe it. Then, I got a call from Aamir and the entire team was invited to his house where we partied till late. There is too much of a hangover of Lagaan."

Sounding thrilled and giggling over the telephonic conversation, she said, "This is my first film which has got recognition worldwide and I can't stop thanking God."

She described the shooting in Bhuj as a "once in a life experience where we lived in a simple village style but security persons guarded us all the time".

Describing Aamir an absolute perfectionist, "I wondered why a superstar was so meticulous about every minute aspect of acting, the sets, dialogues and so forth when his films would be a success anyway."

Now, she says, she understands the results of that sincerity and dedication to work.

Taran Adarsh, the editor of Trade Guide, a comprehensive magazine that reports on the industry's financial health, also believes that film-makers want to enter the international arena, they would have to quit their mindless effort in making films.

"Even the choice of films by the Film Federation of India has been flawed as last year the official selection for the Oscar's was Jeans, a terrible film that was even rejected in India."

The nomination of Lagaan for the awards is indeed very good news as the film has done India proud. He thinks the film has defied all commercial norms and the usual ingredients that producers depend on is missing.

Rather than designer clothes, the cast is in simple rural dress, there are no foreign locations and instead a poor village in Bhuj was chosen and the usual romantic story has been done away for a story that revolves around cricket when sports has been a taboo with Indian film-makers.

For any international film to succeed, it has to touch the core of the heart and be entertaining, which Lagaan has accomplished.